Reluctant Self-Promotion Dept.: An Honor From Trust Across America


I am directed by management to announce to you all that your Ethics Alarms host was recently honored by Trust Across America, whose co-founder and Executive Director Barbara Kimmel often weighs in here. The inspiring non-profit organization, which pursues the crucial mission of enhancing trustworthy behavior in organizations, annually names its Top 100 Thought Leaders In Trustworthy Business, and I made the 2014 list, which is a distinguished one. For example, it also includes Charles H. Green, whose commentaries on posts here often enhance the site.

The list is described on the TAA site this way:

“While there are many “top” lists and awards, none specifically address trustworthy business – perhaps because the word “trust” presents a definitional challenge. For five years Trust Across America has been working with a growing team of experts to study, define and quantify organizational trust. During the course of our research, we have met with and spoken to hundreds of experts, across a variety of professional disciplines who, when their efforts are combined, help create trustworthy organizations. As our understanding of trust deepens, so does our pool of exceptional candidates. Many of the honorees are well-known CEOs and leadership experts, while others are quietly working behind the scenes as teachers and researchers. We intend to shine the spotlight on both groups, to redirect the focus from the “scandal of the day” to the trustworthy leaders and organizations of the day.”

I could not be more grateful, honored or humble (hey, I can be humble!), and I want to thank Barbara and her organization for this recognition and encouragement. Trust, as I write here often, really is the essential goal of ethics, for without trust, productive human society is impossible. We have a very long way to go to repair the fraying societal and institutional trust now plaguing America, but groups like Trust Across America give me hope that the task is not impossible, just daunting. I do believe that together, by setting and maintaining high standards and not allowing ourselves to be distracted by biases and rationalizations, a more trusting, ethical world is within reach.

Is “Double-Dipping” Unethical? How?

"Throw one scoop away, you greedy, unethical bastard!"

“Throw one scoop away, you greedy, unethical bastard!”

Over at Trust Across America, Barbara Kimmel has painted a scarlet “U” on the interim superintendent of the Mahwah School District, who has a $167,000 contract as well as an $131,000 annual pension. She finds the woman’s justification for her extravagant enrichment at taxpayer expense through the practice of “double-dipping,” unethical, and is rankled by the woman’s justification, when she says, “I think it’s the way the system is set up. Greater people than me made that decision, I took advantage of it. ”  This is the epitome of unethical reasoning, Kimmel writes:

“As the Commander in Chief of a school district you are responsible for the “culture of the corporation.” Just remember what you said the next time a student shows up in your office and uses the excuse that “everyone else was doing it,” or when one of your faculty members chooses to use all their days off, leaving a classroom full of kids with no teacher.  After all, it’s the way the system is set up. And the NJ taxpayers- apparently they don’t factor in to your ethical barometer at all. You just “took advantage of it (them).”

The executive director of Trust Across America also finds this to be the perfect example of conduct that is legal but not ethical. Is it? I’m dubious, and I’m not comfortable condemning the interim superintendent’s conduct or even her words, though she could have stated her situation a bit less smugly.

Exactly what is unethical here? Is it… Continue reading